Friday, May 24, 2013

The origins of abusive theology and abusive parenting

This post is a follow up to Blaming tragedies on God and hitting your kids

The thing about a church is that they are rarely a unified, monolith of belief. In my own church growing up, some people professed to believe in a young earth (the literal seven day creation) and probably considered dinosaurs to be Jesus horses. Others had more scientific understandings of the universe and its origins (Big Bang, evolution, etc. were incorporated to their understanding of God's creation). The same spectrum existed for abusive theologies (homophobia, patriarchy, child abuse, God-induced tragedies). I know there were people in my church who would adamantly deny that God would ever kill innocent elementary school children to prove some angry, unrelated point. So I don't mean to paint in broad brush strokes when I talk about my religious upbringing. 

And yet, one thing I think almost everyone in my church would agree on is the Bible. It is the inerrant Word of God. It is perfect. Without any mixture of error. All scripture is true and trustworthy. (Because those are direct quotes of the Southern Baptist Convention's beliefs.) And that was one area where I heard no debate in my church.

As a child, I pretty much thought God just whispered in Paul, et al.'s ear. And they all just took turns writing chapters or something. I had no idea how political the process of translating and canonizing the Bible was. And I definitely never once stopped for a moment to consider how horrific parts of the Bible were. 

It wasn't until I was older (19ish?) and volunteering in a Sunday school class that I first thought, this book is totally inappropriate for children. Like when Moses instructed his people to keep the virgins for themselves?! (Numbers 31:7-18) Or here, where God pretty much gives his seal of approval for murder, rape, and slavery: "When the LORD your God hands it over to you, kill every man in the town.  But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder.  You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you." (Deuteronomy 20:10-14) Or when God demands that rape victims be stoned (if it happened in the city, because obviously, they must have done something to deserve it?!?!) or marry their rapist? (Deuteronomy 22:23-29) And you know the oft-quoted, "much is required from those to whom much is given"? It is in reference to guidance about how severely you should beat a slave who didn't realize he did anything wrong. And I've mentioned before all the examples of God personally killing people.

I could go on, but I'd rather not. 

To believe that all of this is authored by the most holy, just, merciful creator of life? It requires that you basically shut off your heart. Ignore the parts of you that are capable of things like compassion and empathy for your fellow man. 

And that, my friends, is the first and most crucial step for an abuser: turning off your heart. When you ignore that voice that says: that's not very nice, that will hurt someone, that is cruel.

And the only thing worse than turning off your heart? Is when you compound that with a tendency to turn off your brain. When you ignore the part of your brain that says, "but why would God do such a thing?" so as to not undermine tenets of your theology? That is the next step.

When you are not feeling empathy or compassion, and when you refuse to question or condemn acts of evil, (especially when they come from someone with religious or personal authority) that is the moment you become capable of abuse. And when you are taught to respect and obey without question people who are capable of abuse? It is a pretty sick recipe for messed up stuff to happen.

Not that all fundamentalists are abusers. But I would argue that many of them have very, very different definitions of abuse than I do because they have been conditioned to accept as normal (and even highly value) things that I find dangerous or even abhorrent. And I would argue that because of that, many of them have carried out, ignored, or perpetuated acts or ideas I would consider abusive. 

Not unlike what is going on at Sovereign Grace Ministries. (which by the way, the Southern Baptist Convention? They've pretty much been unwavering in their support of the church and their sick, abusive practices.) And what I would venture to say that this sort of stuff goes on all the time on smaller scales and with less publicity every single day. And that is reason number I'VE LOST TRACK that I will not ever take my girls to a church like that.
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